US Credit Card Market Share: Facts and Statistics
If you’re an American aged between 30 and 49, there’s an 83% chance you have at least one credit card. If you’re categorized as an average US consumer, statistics indicate that you probably have four.
According to the latest Federal Reserve consumer credit report, American consumers' collective revolving credit debt recently fell below the $1 trillion mark for the first time since 2016. In May 2020, it stood at $995.6 billion. That’s lower than mid-2019, when US credit card users were juggling a combined credit card debt of $1.08 trillion.
But the revolving credit industry is still big business, with only a handful of companies holding a percentage of the US credit card market share.
General Credit Card Payment Data
Data from the Federal Reserve shows that credit card transactions accounted for more than a third (34.1%) of all card payments in 2018 by number. That’s slightly higher than the 33.2% in 2015. General-purpose credit cards accounted for 91.5 % of all credit card transactions in 2018 by number, down slightly from 92.1% in 2015.
Payments made by private-label credit cards represented the remaining 8.5% of transactions in 2018. The average value of credit card payments was the same for both card types and equalled $89, a slight decrease from the $90 in 2015.
When discussing the market share of credit card companies, it’s important to understand that there are two main ways to segment this extremely competitive industry. In this article, you’ll find credit card market share data by network and revolving credit market share facts and statistics by issuer.
First of all, let’s define the terms. A credit card network, such as Visa or Mastercard, sets the terms for credit card transactions, authorizes them, and processes them. Meanwhile, a credit card issuer - usually a bank, a credit union, or a similar financial institution - provides (issues) credit cards to consumers.
Credit Card Market Share by Network
The US credit card market is dominated by four giants: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover. However, it’s important to note that the four competitors are by no means equal.
While Visa and Mastercard are distinguished by a notable advantage in terms of global acceptance, American Express and Discover are well-known as payment facilitators that don't need a middleman as they issue cards directly to consumers.
The Fed’s 2019 Report to the Congress on the Profitability of Credit Card Operations of Depository Institutions confirmed the status of Visa and Mastercard as the most popular credit card brands.
These two companies combined accounted for 84% of all US general-purpose credit cards or a total of nearly 569 million cards in 2018. The American Express and Discovery networks contributed with another 111 million general-purpose cards the same year.
The total number of transactions (charges and cash advances) made with credit cards from all four networks reached 41 billion and amounted to approximately $3.8 trillion.
Based on the Nilson Report issued in February 2020, Visa and Mastercard were once again the networks providing the most used credit cards in the USA in 2019. There were 333.1 million general-purpose Visa credit cards in circulation that year and 243 million Mastercards.
Discover provided 60.1 million credit cards, and 54.7 million credit cards came from Amex. With a total of 44.60 billion transactions, the combined dollar volume amounted to about $4 trillion.
Data sources: Visa Operational Performance Data, Q1 2020; Mastercard Supplemental Operational Performance Data, Q Ended December 31, 2019; American Express 2019 Annual Report; Discover 2019 Annual Report.
Visa Market Share
Out of the four major US credit card companies, Visa is the largest. At the end of 2019, this network’s 12-month US credit payments volume was $2 trillion. That’s up from $1.95 trillion in December 2018 and $1.77 trillion in December 2017.
There were 340 million Visa credit cards in circulation in the US in 2019 and another 800 million around the world. The previous year, there were 336 million Visa credit cards in circulation stateside and another 737 million cards globally.
Mastercard Market Share
Mastercard is the second-largest US credit card network. Its US credit purchase volume was $910 billion in the fiscal year 2019, up from $811 billion the previous year.
In 2019, there were 244 million Mastercards being used in the US and more than 700 million worldwide. The previous year, that number stood at 227 million in the US and 641 million cards in the rest of the world.
Out of the world’s total 49 billion Mastercard purchase transactions, more than 20% - which accounts for approximately 10 billion transactions - were processed in the US in the fiscal year 2019.
American Express Market Share
As one of the top competitors in the credit card industry, American Express has also seen constant growth. US Amex cardholders spent a total of $827.7 billion in 2019, up from $777.6 billion the year before.
According to data from 2019, there were 54.7 million general-purpose American Express credit cards in circulation in the US, plus 59.7 million in the rest of the world. The year before, there were 60.3 million cards outside the US and another 53.7 million cards being used stateside.
(Source: American Express 2019 Annual Report)
Discover Card Market Share
Discover is also among the largest credit card providers in the US. In 2019, this network had a credit purchase volume of $151 billion, up from $143 billion in 2018 and $133 billion in 2017.
The total number of credit card transactions processed by the Discover network was 7.50 billion in 2019, up from 6.8 billion in 2018 and 6 billion in 2017.
(Source: Discover 2019 Annual Report)
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Credit Card Market Share by Issuer
While the credit card market is highly competitive, a relatively small group of card issuers has been holding most of the outstanding credit card balances for almost two decades. The top eight providers held 77.9% of outstanding credit card balances in 2018.
Changes in issuers' market share are caused not only by competitive dynamics and consumer preferences, but also by evolving trends in financial brand recognition.
In this section, you'll find historical market share data for general-purpose credit cards and store credit cards outlined in terms of outstanding balance and purchase volume.
Credit Card Market Share by Issuer Based on Outstanding Balances
(Data source: Nilson Report, October 2018)
In the table below you’ll find an overview of data recorded in 2018, 2016, 2014, and 2009, as well as a list of banks that issue credit cards in the US ranked by market share based on outstanding credit balances.
Outstanding Balances in Billions
|Chase||$145.26 (16.10%)||$141.82 (14.17%)||$129.57 (14.86%)||$165.87 (19.00%)|
|Bank of America||$106.58 (11.80%)||$101.56 (10.15%)||$100.24 (11.49%)||$145.10 (16.00%)|
|Citi||$106.29 (11.70%)||$94.50 (9.44%)||$82.30 (9.44%)||$102.54 (12.00%)|
|American Express||$104.94 (11.60%)||$92.43 (9.24%)||$93.82 (10.76%)||$78.16 (9.00%)|
|Capital One||$94.32 (10.40%)||$90.43 (9.04%)||$72.66 (8.33%)||$55.46 (6.00%)|
|Discover||$67.81 (7.50%)||$61.52 (6.15%)||$56.13 (6.44%)||$48.90 (6.00%)|
|Wells Fargo||$40.70 (4.50%)||$38.83 (3.88%)||$35.21 (4.04%)||$30.89 (3.00%)|
|US Bank||$37.32 (4.10%)||$37.16 (3.71%)||$32.88 (3.77%)||$20.17 (2.00%)|
|Barclays||$24.78 (2.70%)||$26.35 (2.63%)||$20.78 (2.38%)||$10.67 (1.00%)|
|Synchrony||$19.41 (2.10%)||$20.46 (2.04%)||$15.15 (1.74%)||N/A (N/A)|
(Data source: Nilson Report, October 2010 - 2018)
Largest Credit Card Issuers Based on Purchase Volume
The table below ranks the top credit card issuer brands: American Express, Bank of America, Barclays, Capital One, Chase, Citi, Discover, Synchrony, US Bank, and Wells Fargo. The issuers are ranked according to purchase volume between 2011 and 2018.
|American Express||American Express||American Express||American Express|
|Citi||Citi||Citi||Bank of America|
|Bank of America||Bank of America||Bank of America||Citi|
|Capital One||Capital One||Capital One||Capital One|
|US Bank||US Bank||US Bank||US Bank|
|Wells Fargo||Wells Fargo||Wells Fargo||Wells Fargo|
(Data source: Nilson Report, February 2017 and February 2019)
Store Credit Card Market Share in the US
Much like general-purpose credit cards, store cards or private-label credit cards are used to buy products and services using credit. These are paid off at the end of the billing cycle. The only difference is that purchases with store credit cards can only be made within a certain chain of stores.
The card’s main advantage is that it comes with relatively loose credit score requirements. Its biggest drawback is that interest rates are usually higher than those of a general-purpose credit card.
Based on the Fed’s Report to Congress on the Profitability of Credit Card Operations of Depository Institutions, store credit card payments accounted for 8.5% of all credit card transactions by number in 2018. The total dollar value of private-label credit card purchases totaled $340 billion, while a single-store card purchase averaged $89 that same year.
Store card data by credit card issuer reveals that Synchrony Financial, Citi Retail Services, and Alliance Data Systems account for three-quarters of market share based on purchase volume.
Data source: Nilson Report, August 2019
Based on the Experian Consumer Credit Review published in 2019, the average American has four credit cards. The same report revealed that New Jersey residents have the highest number of credit cards, 4.1 on average. Meanwhile, residents in Mississippi and Alaska carry the fewest credit cards (2.8 on average).
According to the Nilson Report published in February 2020, four major card networks - Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover - generated $3.966 trillion in credit card purchase volume in the US in 2019. US credit card market data included in the same report shows that there were 44.6 billion transactions made with 690.9 million credit cards in 2019.
As far as credit card networks go, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover are the industry’s giants. There were 333.1 million general-purpose Visa cards in circulation in 2019, 243 million Mastercards, 60.1 million Discover cards, and 54.7 Amex cards.
Data on credit card market share by network based on purchase volume shows that Visa and Mastercard accounted for 75% of all credit card purchases in 2019.
A growing number of consumers are using credit cards for financial transactions. The list of countries where credit cards are being used much more often than cash is also getting longer and currently includes Sweden, Canada, the UK, the US, France, Australia, Japan, and China.
Albert Einstein is said to have identified compound interest as mankind’s greatest invention. That story’s probably apocryphal, but it conveys a deep truth about the power of fiscal policy to change the world along with our daily lives. Civilization became possible only when Sumerians of the Bronze Age invented money. Today, economic issues influence every aspect of daily life. My job at Fortunly is an opportunity to analyze government policies and banking practices, sharing the results of my research in articles that can help you make better, smarter decisions for yourself and your family.
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